POLITICS

Canadian family ties bind Queen's Diamond Jubilee to Victoria's 1897 celebration

06/01/2012 02:21 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - Gordon Campbell has fond memories of his great-granddad.

The former premier of British Columbia and now high commissioner to Britain remembers boyhood visits to his great-grandparents' Vancouver home, particularly the huge moose head mounted on one of the walls.

He remembers his great-grandfather introducing him to the simple pleasure of tea with lemon and lots of sugar.

Campbell will be thinking of his ancestor during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London. After all, the old fellow featured prominently at the last one.

Aylesworth Bowen Perry led a contingent of Stetson-wearing Mounties to London in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. They took part in the Changing of the Guard.

It was a memorable moment in a long and distinguished career that began with Perry as a member of the first graduating class from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

He would go on to become the longest-serving commissioner of the national police force and the only man to command it under the three names it has borne — North-West Mounted Police, Royal Northwest Mounted Police and RCMP.

"It's a pretty nice connection when I found out I was coming here to think that I was going to be at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth and my great-grandfather was here at the last Diamond Jubilee," Campbell said in an interview from London.

The Mounties have been invited back on only one other occasion to perform the guard ceremony. That was last week and Campbell was on hand as RCMP officers rode their horses down the reddish pavement leading to Buckingham Palace, where they stood for a day as the Queen's Life Guard.

The RCMP is the only foreign, non-military force ever to have been invited to mount the guard.

"I just can't imagine how proud he would have been to have Canada be the first country . . . to mount the horse guard, to have Her Majesty there to take the salute from the horse guard as they went by Buckingham Palace," Campbell said.

Of course, Campbell has more than his great-grandfather on his mind as he prepares Canada's contribution to the Queen's four-day weekend fete, a celebration that, for its sheer pageantry, is anticipated to eclipse last year's wedding of Prince William and Kate.

"It's a very special time and a special place," Campbell said. "And I think it's great that we're celebrating such a special person.

"I think Her Majesty is the embodiment of duty and service and commitment. And she's the glue in lots of ways that holds a lot of our traditions together."

Perhaps the grandest event will be the procession down the river Thames of a 1,000-ship flotilla led by the Queen's royal barge.

Beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth to mark the occasion, including two on the roof of Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

There will also be a televised concert at Buckingham Palace featuring Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend the concert and the lighting of the national beacon. Joining him are his wife, Laureen, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Heritage Minister James Moore.

The prime minister's office says Harper will also attend a Tuesday service at St. Paul's Cathedral with the Queen and the royal family. Harper is expected to attend an Olympic event at Canada House later that day.

On Wednesday, the prime minister will join other Commonwealth leaders at a luncheon and be on hand for the unveiling of a new portrait of the Queen.